Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Yellow Science

That's the title of an article that recently appeared in the Wall Street Journal. It compares the use of disreputable, sensational journalism (Yellow Journalism) to the "science" being peddled as global warming (or global climate change, whatever's in vogue right now).

You should read the entire thing, but here's a nice sample:

Nevertheless, over the past several decades an increasing number of scientists have shed the restraints imposed by the scientific method and begun to proclaim the truth of man-made global warming. This is a hypothesis that remains untested, makes no predictions that can be tested in the near future, and cannot offer a numerical explanation for the limited evidence to which it clings. No equations have been shown to explain the relationship between fossil-fuel emission and global temperature. The only predictions that have been made are apocalyptic, so the hypothesis has to be accepted before it can be tested.

The only evidence that can be said to support this so-called scientific consensus is the supposed correlation of historical global temperatures with historical carbon-dioxide content in the atmosphere. Even if we do not question the accuracy of our estimates of global temperatures into previous centuries, and even if we ignore the falling global temperatures over the past decade as fossil-fuel emissions have continued to increase, an honest scientist would still have to admit that the hypothesis of man-made global warming hardly rises to the level of "an assertion of what has been or would be the result of carrying out a specified observational procedure." Global warming may or may not be "the greatest scam in history," as it was recently called by John Coleman, a prominent meteorologist and the founder of the Weather Channel. Certainly, however, under the scientific method it does not rise to the level of an "item of physical knowledge."

I have to admit that, when it comes to atmospheric science, I'm not much better off than a layman. I'm a chemist and molecular biologist by training, so much of the physics that goes into it is beyond me. However, I can tell when something is not being put to the rigorous scrutiny that science demands. All I've ever seen out of the global warming "debate" is a great PR blitz; Don't question it, don't try to understand it, just go along with it or else you're evil.

This wouldn't be so big a deal if the goal were to just get global warming acknowledged. However, the larger goal is a restructuring of societies and economies at a scale that has never been seen in human history before. It's not irresponsible to suggest that we should have more debate, and better confirmation, of the apocalyptic predictions that global warming could
unleash before drastically altering everything that has made humanity prosperous since the 19th century.

My preferred solution is to wait. When predictions like these are made, they seem to assume a static level of technology. Who's to say that 50 years from now there won't be technology that will either give better information or allow for better handling of any actual problems that might arise? I'm not arguing that we should bank on solutions that don't yet exist, but to assume that only the environment will be different in that amount of time is just as silly.

Ahem, all that aside, read the whole article.

Related: Global Warming as Mass Neurosis


Scum said...

But what happens if we wait 50 years and the global climate changes enough to cause frequent severe weather events killing millions, or perhaps billions of people?

And we waited long enough to find out that if we had done something 50 years ago, the climate change could have been mitigated or reversed?

Maybe it will be too late in 50 years?

Maybe we should do SOMETHING now to try and reduce the damage that we're doing to the planet we live on.

Perhaps a good example of why we SHOULD NOT wait and see what happens is nuclear energy generation. 40 years ago when they started thinking about ways to dispose of the waste products, I'm sure they thought, "Oh, well, in 50 years we'll know what to do with it."

I'm not aware of any good way of disposing of nuclear waste. Burying it in the ground in bedrock just seems irresponsible to me.

Hal said...

Did you miss my argument? You know, where we ought to have better confirmation than "What if?" before we knee-cap the global economy?

Yeah. That's kind of important. You could make all kinds of "what if" arguments, but in the real world we react to those on the evidence of their likelihood. Global warming is not at that point yet.

Scum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scum said...

There are several people that seem to feel that there is a high likelihood that human activity contributes significantly to climate change:

The AR4 report is interesting.

If that moves you a bit, take a look at

It was a point of view I hadn't considered myself.

URLs didn't work right the first time around...

Scum said...

Not sure why that second link won't work. You'll have to copy and paste to follow it. :(